Saturday, January 9, 2010

A French Jesuit Building A Bridge For Children In Manilla

If French Priest Jean-François Thomas, S.J. were to have his way, he would prefer that the Tulay ng Kabataan (Bridge for Children) Foundation cease to operate because it would mean that there were no impoverished children languishing in the streets of Metro Manila.

But until that day comes, Thomas, the 50-year-old executive director of the TNK, said he and his volunteers would continue to wean children from what he calls the “habits of the street.”

“There is a need and the problem will not be solved in the next few years. I want to close down the TNK because then it would mean that these children already live decently. But there is still a need for the foundation,” the Jesuit priest, who teaches philosophy at the Ateneo de Manila University, told the Inquirer.

For almost a decade, Thomas and his staff, composed of coordinators, psychologists, social workers, street educators, nurses and teachers, have been saving children—victims of violence, drugs, prostitution and hopelessness—from a life in the streets.

In 1996, he was sent by the Jesuits to the country to help out the needy. In 1998, Thomas formed the foundation after he saw the plight of the poor children. He has not left since then.

Asian culture

Asked why he, a foreigner, was interested in helping the poor when other Filipinos would rather ignore them, Thomas replied, “Sometimes I can’t grasp why this is so. This is the Asian culture, but maybe, people feel shy about facing poverty.”

But he pointed out that not all Filipinos feel the same way as he praised his staff. “I have great admiration for them. They are so dedicated to their work. They don’t do it for the money but out of compassion. They want the children to have a future.”

He recounted how their social workers or street educators, as he preferred to call them, toil day and night in 50 different areas in Metro Manila to convince solvent abusers, street gang members, children who have turned to prostitution and scavengers to abandon their “habits” and grow up to be productive individuals.

Thomas explained that he prefers to use the word “habit” because some of the children rescued by the foundation find it very difficult to resist the temptation of returning to a life in the streets.

But he stressed that the kids are always free to leave the centers as long as they know that there are places and people like those in the foundation who would willingly take them back should they change their mind.

Link (here)

Photo is from Father's website of the children his organization helps.(here)

The main webpage of TNK is (here)

To donate money to Father's organization go (here)

Blogger Note:

Dear fellow blogger, highlighting this organization will look good on your permanent record.

1 comment:

Maria said...

This is the face of a Jesuit with a heart for God. It makes my heart sing.